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Colt Ford Keeps the Collabs Coming on ‘We the People, Volume 1′

Check out the exclusive premiere of "Lucky Scars" featuring Eddie Montgomery.

Written by Chris Parton
Colt Ford Keeps the Collabs Coming on ‘We the People, Volume 1′
Colt Ford; Photo credit: Jeff Fasano

Take a look around the country landscape today and you’ll see a growing trend: Superstar collaborations. Artists like Miranda Lambert teaming up with Maren Morris, Thomas Rhett and Kelsea Ballerini …. Just a few years ago these were the exception rather than the rule – until Colt Ford came along, that is.

He might not always get credit for it, but the country-rap underdog helped clear a path for country’s biggest names to start populating each other’s albums, and now he’s back with another set chock full of fresh partnerships.

Ford’s seventh studio album, We The People, Volume 1, arrives September 20, and this time the track list features 14 songs with the likes of Mitchell Tenpenny, Jimmie Allen, Michael Ray, bluegrass hero Dan Tyminski and even Eddie Montgomery on the wisdom-filled “Lucky Scars.” That grateful standout premieres today (September 12) on Sounds Like Nashville, and Ford spoke by phone about making it happen – along with country coming around to his way of thinking. It’s been a long time since his unlikely breakout with 2008’s Ride Through the Country featuring Brantley Gilbert, John Michael Montgomery, Jamey Johnson, Bone Crusher and more.

“You make one record and it was unlike anything out at the time, and everyone is like ‘Well, I don’t know if that will work,’” Ford says. “But it ended up working, and now it’s like ‘Wow, here we are almost 12 years later, and I feel like this new record might be the best one I’ve ever made.’”

You sounded so different when you came out, but now country has moved toward that hip-hop, R&B-influenced style. Does that blow your mind?

Ford: It’s funny to me. Lately I’ve been feeling like they always used to say “You’re way over here and country’s here,” and now it’s like “I’m right in the middle and y’all are way over there.” But look, music evolves, and to me it’s a living, breathing thing. It moves and changes and grows, and that’s what makes it magical to me.

Has your style changed?

Yeah, certainly. I haven’t changed as an artist, but what I can do as an artist, I’ve improved on. To me I don’t care what you’re doing – if you’re a garbage man you’re supposed to figure out a way to be a little better at your job every day, and I feel like I’ve gotten better at my job every record. On this record there’s some stuff I’ve never done. I’m going back to some “Dirt Road Anthem” kind of things with stuff like “Slow Ride,” “We The People” is just ass-stompin’ rock and we’ve got a big ballad called “How You Lose a Women.” I haven’t had anything like that before, and I did a lot more true duets instead of [guest artists] singing the chorus and me doing the other part. … At 50 years old, I couldn’t be more excited about what’s going on with my music.

As always, the collaborations stand out on We the People, Volume 1. You pioneered that and now it’s a much more common thing. How does that make you feel?

Honestly, that one I definitely feel like I helped start. I feel like I made it like “Hey, that’s cool, that’s OK to do,” and people want to see it. If you look back to when Ride Through the Country came out, there were very few duet kind of things in country, and you saw that it could work.

Look, there’s way to much jealousy in the music industry. When I first started I felt like a lot of people in Nashville were like “Well hey, if we do this with him, what if he gets more shine than I do?” And it’s like, “That’s not what it’s about, dude.” … I love doing the collaborations and I guarantee nobody in town thought I would do a record with Dan Tyminski. I love that shit. That stuff is cool to me. And if you have an artist who knows who they are … who is comfortable with themselves? I guarantee if you put me and Taylor Swift in a room a dope-ass song would come out of it. That’s fun, that’s what’s cool about music. I bet her and I got a lot of different opinions on a lot of things, but so what? I guarantee you musically we would come up with something funky.

What’s the story behind “Lucky Scars” featuring Eddie Montgomery? It’s all about being thankful for life’s bigger picture – even with the bumps and bruises, and Eddie has endured some real scars in the last few years.

I wrote that with [Gregory Alan Moye and] Jeffery Steele, who is one of my favorite songwriters of all time, and it was like everybody knows the phrase “Thank my lucky stars.” How has nobody ever written “Thank my lucky scars?” Then it’s a matter of “What does that mean?” If you listen to the lyrics, a lot of that stuff is kind of like my song “Back” – it’s all true. Tommy Mitchell did live next door to me, we did have BB Gun fights, and in the chorus we say ‘We just cried and kept on playing / We didn’t run to mom or dad / Friends fought like hell, we didn’t tattle tale / We all knew better than that.’ That’s real life, and it ain’t always easy, but that’s alright, learn how to deal with it. That’s what that song is like, saying all these bumps and bruises, cuts and cracks, they get you to the place where you’re at. … When we got done it was like “Boy, if we ever wrote a Montgomery Gentry song, that was it right there.” So then it was like “I gotta get Eddie to sing this with me.” We did it as a duet, and he sounds as good as he ever did to me. There’s a lot on there Eddie can relate to.

Exactly. He’s a tough guy, but with Troy gone the song takes on this added emotional weight, so you could understand if he didn’t want to do this.

With the tragedy he’s had to go through, and he’s still here singing and continuing to keep Troy’s name and Montgomery Gentry alive, that’s a big deal and quite honestly, nobody would fault him if he said “I can’t do this anymore.” … But it’s important to him that he keeps going … so I’m really proud of Eddie.

The new single is “Slow Ride” featuring Mitchell Tenpenny, and your voices are so different. How did that song happen?

People were getting on me like “Listen, let’s get some of that old, vintage Colt Ford ‘Dirt Road Anthem’ kind of stuff,” … and “Slow Ride” was just like “OK, I’ll give you some of that old stuff.” I had forgotten how fun it is to write stuff like that because I hadn’t done it in a while. … I didn’t know Mitchell Tenpenny, I was just a fan and I thought his voice was amazing, and I started getting into his music and then we met by accident. … So we exchanged numbers and I sent him the song, and it turns out he really likes that kind of sound. Our voices don’t go together, but they do go together, if that makes any sense. It’s the whole opposites attract kind of thing.

Why name the album We the People, Volume 1? Does that mean there’s a Volume 2 coming?

I’m about 75 percent done with Volume 2 and I’ve got some cool stuff. I’m talking like, 1980s sounding country, and I think people are gonna be like “Holy shit, I was not ready for that.” That’s exciting to me. It’s neat that after all these years, I feel like I’m making the best music I’ve ever made.